I need to test out some Web site programming on a Linux system and have determined that the Ubuntu distribution is ideal. My question: what’s the best, easiest way to install Ubuntu Linux on my Mac system so I can run all my tests?
There are a number of different ways to install Ubuntu Linux on your Mac system, but one of my favorites, hands down, is to install it within the Parallels Desktop environment. Why? Because it’s literally a one-click download to get it up and running. Now I realize that Parallels Desktop, like VMWare Fusion, is a commercial Mac application and has a price tag associated with it, but it sounds like this is related to your work and, well, sometimes you have to pay for your tools, right? The again, it’s not that expensive at $79.
From a testing perspective, the Ubuntu Linux environment within Parallels is functionally identical to running the operating system native on a PC computer, which is nice. It’s just neatly tucked into the Mac OS X environment and — a nice bonus — can run full screen giving you the distinct impression that your Mac is only running Linux, which is bound to impress your geeky friends!
Once you’ve installed Parallels Desktop on your computer, simply launch the program and you’ll be given a variety of options for proceeding:
The option you seek is on the lower left: “Download Ubuntu Free”. That’s really all you need to do, it’s going to do everything else in a surprisingly automated fashion. Still, let’s keep stepping through the process.
First off, is this really what you want? Here’s the description, along with an indication that it’s the Linux 11.04 Desktop distro release of Ubuntu that’s available:
Looks good? Click on the button to continue and it’ll start downloading a ready-to-roll Parallels installation image of he operating system:
As you can see, it’s about 1.2GB so if you’re on a dialup (is anyone still on a dialup?) it’s going to take a while. With a decent connection, however, it’s not too long to wait and you can always switch to a different window and do something else while you wait.
Once it has downloaded, the installation will be uncompressed…
Literally the next step after it uncompresses and installs is that Parallels Desktop launches the new image and you’ve got Ubuntu running!
Note the warning on the bottom, though: “Parallels Tools are outdated. Please reinstall them manually.” Not hard to do but before we update these important display and network drivers, let’s just log in! Click on “parallels” and don’t worry, you don’t need to know the password to proceed…
Pick an easily remembered password and click the orange “Login” button.
You’re up and running. Nice! This particular release of Ubuntu Linux goes by the rather odd name of “Oneiric Ocelot”, which, Google assures me, has the following explanation: “Oneiric means “dreamy,” and the ocelot is a domestic-sized cat native to South and Central America.”
Now you know.
Let’s fix that out of date tools issue before you’re done, just so you can see that it’s similarly easy in Parallels Desktop.
Along the bottom of the window, you’ll notice that the gear icon has a small black triangle adjacent. Click on it and you’ll see all the configuration options appear:
The one we want is the gear within a gear: it’s displayed with a tiny blue element to highlight that your attention is needed. Click on it:
To update the Parallels Tools within the Ubuntu Linux environment in Parallels Desktop, simply click on the ingeniously named “Update Parallels Tools”. That’s it.
When you’re ready to go full-screen and hide the Mac OS X menu bar, you can either click on the diagonal up/down arrows on the very top right of the window, or pull down the window options menu on the lower right, where two overlapping windows icons are displayed. Either way, I think you’ll be surprised and pleased at the performance and ease of working within the Ubuntu environment for your testing while still having the best of the Mac OS X world accessible with a mouseclick.